Friday, September 8, 2017

The Thing About Edits

Yay! You've finished your novel! It took you months, maybe a year or so. You've overcome the dry spells, the self doubt, and constant revisions. You've added extra details and removed superfluous sentences. You gave some characters more to say, and eliminated others. You remembered to show, not tell.

Or did you? Now that you're gazing lovingly at your finished manuscript, it's time to look it over and berate yourself on what a clumsy, amateurish job you did. Oh, edits are fun.

You give it a good once over. Check your spelling, and count the sensory details. (Crap! Excuse me, I have to check Freya's reaction to her new environment in the Prologue. Don't forget to describe the setting.) Make sure the five senses are represented, and if applicable, include the sixth sense hunches and feelings.

Another run. This time you read it outloud, checking for grammar and flow. Did that sentence make sense as you read it? Did everything mesh together properly? Or were there pieces that pulled you out of the moment? Would an Old Norse Viking use the word 'demented'? No. They use the word 'beserk', and it's okay to use it more than once. Put the Thesaurus down.

Third run. NOW, we're in the thick of it. Read it like a reader, not a writer. It looks different. Are you pulled in? Are you bored? Why? Today, it was show and not tell. Fix it with a dialog between the characters about how they're feeling about arriving on Earth for the first time. Pick apart every sentence. You find a sentence you don't like, and you realize it's because it uses a lame cliche. Why say 'incomprehensible babble' when you can say 'words that fell from his mouth rolled, pitching high and low in an incomprehensible deluge. Like a song.' Answer your own questions. Like why doesn't anyone believe Heimo when he tells the villagers that naked strangers have arrived? Because one sentence claims Heimo has seen fairies. No one believes that either.

When that exhausting exercise is finished, you'll probably go over it again. Just to be sure. Because you're going to send it to Beta readers, people who love to read and will give you important feedback about your carefully polished offering. If they care about you and your work, they'll be brutally honest. Put your ego aside. This is your audience. If they find flaws, examine and correct them. Remember--"No one ever became great by being told they were great." --Stephen King (I think.) 

So we're done now? No. Hand it all over to a professional editor, and squirm as they take your baby and manipulate it into something palatable for the masses. Anyone who trusts their own objectivity and publishes without this step is an arrogant fool. Besides, it will only enhance your work, and make you look that much more talented. If you have a good editor, you'll barely be able to see them in the final product. 

I'm in the third edits of Her True Name: Volume Two. I just finished Chapter One, and it took all day. Here's a sad fact about edits...You'll never quite be satisfied. While I'm here writing advice, I'm clicking back to those pages I did today and tweaking them as I am reminded to practice what I preach. (Ooh...such a bad cliche! This blog is full of them.) 

Here's a happy fact about editing. It's hard work, but I'm glad to be doing it. I feel like myself, and I feel accomplished. If you wrote the book, edits are just a good way to make it the very best you can offer the world. Don't rush. Just enjoy the improvements, and know it's worth it.

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